Bristol’s Colston society to end after 275 years at the end of this year | West Country

The Colston Society – the original group set up in the name of Bristol-born slave

The Colston Society – the original group set up in the name of Bristol-born slave trader Edward Colston – is to be disbanded.

In a narrow margin, following a survey in July and August, members of the registered charity voted to close the group completely, rather than continue with a different name.

For years it has held church services involving school children that commemorated Colston, who in later life gave part of his fortune to set up schools and almshouses – a home for the poor, old and distressed – in Bristol.

The Colston Society was set up by wealthy merchants and slave traders in the middle of the 18th century, after Edward Colston’s death. Credit: Bristol Live

But now, after 275 years of celebrating and commemorating Edward Colston the society has been brought to an end – by the members themselves.An email to its members from trustee Nigel Sommerville confirmed the result of the survey was to disband altogether.Back in July, in the wake of the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston and the widespread re-examining of places, schools and organisations associated with the slave trader, the Colston Society quietly surveyed in members.

It offered three alternatives: continuing as they were under the Colston name; continuing but under a different name, with The Redcliffe Society proposed, or disbanding completely.

A decision on what will replace the Colston statue in the centre of Bristol is yet to be made. Credit: ITV News West Country

Of the 140 members, a total of 105 responded to the survey.A total of 62 members said they thought the society should disband, while 49 said they would want to continue under a different name.The email from Mr Sommerville said the Colston Society would disband on December 31 this year.He wrote: “There was an excellent response to the questionnaire sent out in late July, with 105 members (representing 76% of the total membership) replying.“Of these a clear majority, 62 (59%), indicated that they thought the Society should be wound up.”

In accordance with the wishes of this majority, the Committee has resolved to wind the Society up with effect from 31 December 2020 and that the Society’s remaining funds should be given to Redcliffe Children’s Centre, to be used in the renovation of its outdoor activity area.

Nigel Sommerville

Mr Sommerville added that another trustee was keen to begin a new society to continue the work raising money for children in Redcliffe.

A significant minority, 49 members, indicated in their responses to the questionnaire that they would wish to remain members of a renamed society, perhaps named The Redcliffe Society, to carry on raising money to support the disadvantaged of Redcliffe.

Nigel Somerville

“Those members who wish to support a continuation of the work the Society has done in Redcliffe are encouraged to contact Alastair McArthur who has agreed to work to establish such a new society.”


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